Legal Custody: What It Means and Why It Matters

Legal Custody: What It Means and Why It Matters

Understanding custody types, children and how they affect parenting decisions

Going through a divorce is stressful no matter what, but it can be especially trying when the proceedings involve children. When it comes to custody, it’s important to know your rights and understand the two different types of custody: physical and legal.

Physical custody refers to the parent with whom a child lives and spends the majority of his or her time. Legal custody, on the other hand, refers to how parents make medical, religious, and educational decisions for their children. In a divorce proceeding, legal custody is just as important as physical custody, despite some common misunderstandings about what it means.

Below, we’ve outlined the differences between joint legal custody and sole legal custody. Understanding these nuances will help give you better sense of how a legal custody ruling can affect you and your family.

Joint Legal Custody

Joint legal custody means that, regardless of the physical custody arrangement, the parents are required to make decisions together on the issues of education, religion, and health care.

Some examples of these types of decisions include:

  • Healthcare: Whether or not a child should have an elective surgery
  • Religion: Whether or not a child should be confirmed within a certain church
  • Education: Whether or not a child should be held back from advancing a grade in school

Bottom line, within a joint legal custody arrangement, both parents need to be involved in the decision-making process.

Sole Legal Custody

Sole legal custody means that, regardless of the physical custody arrangement,  one parent has the right to make decisions on the issues of education, religion, and health care without having to first reach an agreement with the other parent.

How It Affects Your Children: How Is Legal Custody Decided?

Before a judge can deliver a ruling about whether joint or sole legal custody should be granted, several factors are considered:

  • Have the parents agreed to share joint legal custody?
  • How fit is each parent is to make decisions for their child?
  • Can the parents cooperate and communicate in advancing their child’s welfare?
  • What are the wishes of the child?
  • What is the nature of the child’s relationship with each parent?
  • Do the parents live close to each other? And if they do, will they continue to do so?
  • What is the nature of child’s physical and emotional environment in the home of each parent?

If the judge grants a parent sole legal custody, the judge can still limit that parent’s decision making authority if the child’s physical health would be endangered or emotional development would be significantly impaired without the limitation. After all of these factors are considered and weighed, the judge will always make a decision in the best interest of the child.

We’re Here to Help

At BB&C, our established team of divorce, custody, and family law experts has extensive experience with helping our clients navigate custody issues. We understand that establishing custodial rights is one of the most emotional issues a person can face. We’re devoted to helping our clients arrive at positive, clear-minded outcomes that best serve their families.

If you have questions about physical or legal custody, contact Kisti Good Risse at kgr@hereforelife.com or 765-742-9066.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog is intended to be general and informational in nature. It is advertising material and is not intended to be, nor is it, legal advice to or for any particular person, case, or circumstance. Each situation is different, and you should consult an attorney if you have any questions about your situation.

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